Fiat Lux

In collaboration with Adrian Giddings and Charles Horn.

Fiat Lux is an augmented reality, new media environment which enables light to be used as a drawing medium.
The setup included custom-designed drawing pens, a camera, a projector, and a laptop. When a user moved a light pen in front of the camera, the output was processed in real time by a program written in Processing that captured the brightest thing on the screen and held it there in a transparent layer. (Fiat Lux has the capability to be calibrated to any light environment).

It’s a complicated one to explain, so here’s a diagram (click to make it bigger):

The idea was to do light writing in real time. Light writing done with long-exposure photography was big in 2008, but could only be animated through stop motion animation. We wanted the viewer to be able to make a drawing of what was in their imagination, and then see it in relation to themselves, walk around it, edit it, interact with it in their projected image.

In 2008 we were asked to bring Fiat Lux to the V for Venice Multimedia Festival in Venice, Italy. We were planning on having it as an interactive installation, but when we got there we were given the biggest, brightest projector we’d ever seen, and the organiser suggested that we “make some visuals” to be projected on the three-storey wall behind the DJs. It was one of those happy accidents that couldn’t be foreseen or anticipated.

Over three days we pushed the limits of this system and really discovered what it could do. We ended up using Fiat Lux not to draw things to augment reality, but instead to make abstract and responsive visuals for live performance. We discovered that by shining lights on objects close to the camera and clearing the screen several times per second, we could make little live, lo-fi movies. We could match our gestures with the music. We documented some of the three days, which is here:

Later that year we also took this installation to The Big Draw, a drawing festival in London, where Fiat Lux was used as an interactive installation for children and adults.

Here are some stills of the testing stages, The Big Draw, and V for Venice:





Drew an umbrella to get out of the rain.